Saturday, 23 July 2016

It's Not Always Sunny Here

We woke up late this morning with the sky covered with thick fog brought about by the humid easterly 'levanta' wind blowing across the Mediterranean.

On most weekends we head off to explore the quaint little villages perched above the mountains of Andalusia or stroll along the beach towns dotted along the Costa del Sol. These kind of days are well-documented in our Facebook posts, eliciting countless likes but very few asking what our idyllic life is really all about.

For we do not live in paradise. Occasionally, on days like today, we plunge in despair. That feeling of being trapped in between the rock and the deep blue sea (the same views we see from our balcony). "Going nowhere, going nowhere" the lyrics of my all time favourite song (Mad World).

Someone in our expat chat group made a controversial statement that "Andalusia is a land of broken dreams". Not everyone agrees, of course, but it is certainly a sentiment that more than a few would share.

Most of us who were brave enough to leave the security and comfort of our lives in Britain have come here with a few dimes and a bag full of dreams. Those who were lucky enough would never go back, but there are also countless others who do not make it.

Andalusia is one of the poorest regions in Europe, with 35% unemployment rate. Most British expats who attempt to relocate relies on the job opportunities that Gibraltar provides. But with the open European border and strict rules on public sector jobs only for the local population, there are not a lot to go around. Even when you try, public sector jobs and opportunities are not like for like from country to country. Despite your experience and qualifications and most probably because of your British passport, it is an uphill battle.

The lack of job prospects can dampen the spirit of even the most resilient individual to the point of disheartenment. The blue skies and bright sunshine, instead of giving us joy, reminds us that our state of permanent holiday is no longer fun but a burden. That sooner or later we have to decide whether here is still where our dreams lie or if we have actually left it buried underneath the palm tree we have planted in the garden of our own little house in Hillsborough, near our beloved football ground overlooking the park where we have fed the ducks. Where life was cosy, albeit without the cheerful skies that the Spanish coast provides.

This gives us comfort at least to know that if ever we have to go back, it wouldn't be the end of the world. That we have a home and plenty of friends to welcome us back.

Meanwhile, by midday the wind has changed its direction and the sky has cleared up, becoming an empty canvass. From our balcony, we can see the brightly-coloured umbrellas dotted along the shore as our beach front urbanisation began filling up with holiday makers frolicking with the glistening sea amidst the strong smell of fresh fish cooked by the heat of the sun. Tonight, once the simmering temperature cools down, we will be heading off to another feria to drink in the cultural spectacles of the Spanish life we have come here to enjoy and will then remind ourselves that we must live for the moment.

Despite the ups and downs of the expat lifestyle, we can still take pride in the knowledge that we have the courage to chase after our dreams and perhaps, when it comes to it, the strength to admit that the grass isn't really greener on the other side. 

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